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Slade Camp, Oxford

Site of a former WW2 army barracks and training camp just outside Oxford.

Slade Camp is a former military barracks and WW2 training camp site on the eastern outskirts of Oxford. This site was originally the home of the Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry and occupied most of the space between The Slade, Headington and The Ridings, Shotover. Nowadays it has been bisected by the Oxford Ring Road and most of the original site within the ring road except for a small Territorial Army barracks has been turned over to housing. This page relates to the eastern side of the site outside the ring road which is now mainly woodland forming part of Oxford's Shotover Country Park.

This part of the site was used in WW2 as a training camp for British soldiers. There is frustratingly little information to be found about it beyond passing references in oral histories to soldiers being based there while training, or before D-day. This is probably because judging by what remains of the buildings on the site there was nothing out of the ordinary to be remembered. This was simply an uninspiring collection of the usual WW2 prefabricated huts which were knocked down and forgotten without a thought when the military vacated the site.

Entry to this site is completely unrestricted. It's part of a public open space covering most of Shotover Hill and as such there is nowhere you can't go, a welcome change from other WW2 sites where an eye has to be kept open for angry farmers. The easiest access is by crossing the ring road at the pedestrian crossing at the end of the Slade, however I prefer to approach from the other side via the Ridings, Shotover. From the ring road you'll cross a meadow to the woodland where you'll find yourself on a concrete military road eventually but from the Ridings you're straight into the main site.

The most striking survival on the Slade Camp site are the roads. They mark the layout of the original buildings and are in pretty good condition with all the services such as water and sewage manholes and fire hydrants still intact.

As can be seen in the pictures the undergrowth has overtaken the site so walking or cycling the roads will give you an overview of the scale of the place but there are few places where any building remains can be seen from them. Fortunately in most places the undergrowth is not too thick and there is an extensive network of smaller paths from which you can explore the more overgrown areas.

So where do you start? My preference is to enter the site at its eastern end, an area defined by a loop of one of the roads. Between the road and the site perimeter there are no structures remaining save for some rubble of typical WW2 reinforced concrete fragments. Inside the loop though is a different story, with a group of several buildings visible as concrete bases with the remains of water pipes and other plumbing fittings. Most obvious are the remains of several toilet blocks, complete with urinal bases.

In the corner at this end of the site is the base of an unidentified building with a concentration of water pipes, probably either a boiler house or the base of a water tower. This is a quite substantial plinth with a set of steps surrounded by metal railings concealed in one of the thicker pieces of undergrowth.

Moving further round the site there are more signs of the military past. More prefab rubble, pieces of broken asbestos roofing in the leaf litter, stretches of military site fencing that should be familiar to frequent WW2 site visitors. Turning left into the southern part of the site reveals another network of roads, and the bases of a fresh set of buildings.

The exact purpose of these buildings is unclear, however their size and layout with entrance ramps and wide doorways suggests workshops or garages.

A map of the site is shown below. Comparing it with a 1960s 1 inch map the surviving building remains are only a fraction of those originally on the site. The reason that there is so little remaining of so many of the buildings beyond a few pieces of rubble is probably because they were somewhat insubstantially built wartime prefabs. What is more interesting though is that there seems to be no sign of any air raid shelters on the site. These shelters are the trademark structures of derelict WW2 sites and since they were usually rather substantially built it seems surprising that none seem to have survived. For this report the site has been well explored, if any surviving shelters have been missed they must be extremely well hidden.

Here is the Flash Earth link to the site location.

The site is surrounded on the east by the woodland of the Shotover Country Park, a large area of dense natural woodland that makes a good approach to the site if you park in the car park at the top of Shotover Hill.